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  Like humans also birds can suffer from a blood poisoning. Veterinarians and medical doctors call this disease a sepsis. A blood poisoning is a very serious medical condition which is caused by a severe infection that affects the whole body.

TTiny wound In general a sepsis occurs when germs like bacteria, viruses or parasites from a local inflammation, for example when there is a (tiny) wound at a bird's toe, enter the circulatory system via the blood. The infection reaches each part of the body and a systemic inflammatory response is the result. Due to this the organism is weakened and many bodily functions are disturbed. Typical reactions are for example circulatory disturbance, fatigue, decrease of blood clotting or even the total failure of inner organs. Also a state of shock ("septic shock") can be observed in affected birds.

Bloodstain on a perch Most humans can be healed when they suffer from a blood poisoning because in many cases the source of infection is visible. Infected wounds can easily be detected in general, but in birds they often are hidden under the plumage. Therefore it is very important to examine birds after any accident to be prepared for an occurring sepsis. If you find bloodstains somewhere, for example on the bottom of the cage or on a perch, then you should look for the wound. Watch out for any sign of an inflammatory process. In case one shows up you should contact an avian vet as soon as possible to prevent a sepsis.

Injured toeDiagnosed in an early stage, a sepsis can be successfully treated in most cases. But as soon as an organ is affected and showing any kind of dysfunction it is difficult to save the bird's life. At first the feathered patient has to be examined by an avian vet. By the aid of for example a blood or tissue sample the doctor has to find out which pathogen is responsible for the inflammation. The next step is a medicamentous treatment for example with a strong antibiotic. Depending on how severe the infection is the antibiotic must be administered a few days upto more than one week.

A dead foot of a budgie
The photo above shows a dead foot of a budgie.

How to avoid a sepsis
It is impossible to keep birds in an aseptic surrounding and therefore their immune system is faced with pathogens each day. In general the avian immune system works very efficient and therefore the standard pathogens of the natural surrounding cause no severe health problems. But in case the bird is weakened (e.g. because of a strong moult) or the pathogens are highly aggressive an infected wound can lead to a sepsis. Since such pathogens are quite uncommon in an aviary or in a bird owner's home there is no need to disinfect the surrounding of a bird too often. This would not prevent a sepsis but make the bird become ill because of the chemicals contained in the disinfectant.

It is more important to observe one's birds carefully each day to notice any small wound immediately. Most wounds heal without causing any problems, but in case you see signs of an inflammation you should contact an avian vet as soon as possible. This is an easy way to prevent a sepsis or start to treat it in an early stage.

Please note that sometimes it is necessary to choose a radical treatment. If for example a toe is infected and it won't heal even though the bird is treated with an antibiotic, a sepsis may occur. To prevent this, the avian vet will most probably suggest amputating the toe or even a foot. After the source of infection is removed the bird will have to learn how to walk with the disabled leg but most birds accept their fate quickly and get along well quite soon after the amputation.

The photo below shows the infected foot of a budgie. As you can easily see one toe already is dead, the black colour is typical for so-called necrotic tissue. Regrettably even an amputation and an antibiotic treatment could not heal the affected bird. His name was Janni and he was just three months old when the sepsis occurred. Since there was no hope for him, his keepers brought him to a vet with a heavy heart. It was the last thing they could do for him, poor Janni has been put to sleep that day.

Jannis Füße waren von der Sepsis schwer geschädigt

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